Sabbath is a commandment given to the Israelites in Deut 5:15. It is also a token of God’s covenant with Israel (Ex 31:13-17; Ezek 20:12-13). Is the Sabbath just for the Israelites? Is it true that Christians do not need to keep the Sabbath? No, and from the bible we know that it is not only the Israelites who kept the Sabbath.
Is Sabbath only for the Israelites and Christian do not need to keep the Sabbath?
- Sabbath was instituted since the beginning (Gen 2:1-3; Ex 20:11) even before the Israelite nation existed. The Sabbath was made for man (Mk 2:27); “man,” of course, does not only refer to the Jews.
- That the Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites does not mean that they have nothing to do with Christians. The words of God were first entrusted to the chosen people of the Old Testament (Rom 3:1-2) and are passed on to the chosen people of God of the New Testament (see Acts 7:38).
- Example: Luke was not a circumcised advocate for the law (see Col 4:10-14; note v. 11) and being a co-worker with Paul (see Acts 16: 10; Phm 24; 2Tim 4:11) he could not have preached the Mosaic law. However, he specially mentioned in his writings that Jesus, as his custom was, went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day (Lk 4:16), and that the women from Galilee rested on Sabbath in obedience to the commandment (Lk 23:55-56); he also recorded that Paul went into the synagogue on the Sabbath as his custom was to reason with the Jews from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2). This fact tells us that all Christians, whether Jew or gentile, must also keep the Sabbath according to God’s commandment.
- Isaiah’s prophecy that foreigners will keep the Sabbath further confirms that Gentile believers in the New Testament will keep the Sabbath (Isa 56:6-7). So Sabbath observance is not only limited to the Israelite nation. We should continue to keep God’s Sabbath.
- The Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel. But it is not ONLY an Old Testament token. It is also a commandment and it has a significance that applies to Christians (Heb 4:9-11).
- We were once sinners and were under the bondage of sin and Satan (Jn 8:34), but Christ has freed us from this bondage (Rom 8:2; see Acts 26:18). Just as the Israelites needed to keep the Sabbath to remember God’s deliverance from the land of Egypt, we also need to keep the Sabbath to remember God’s deliverance from the bondage of sin.
God did not command the patriarchs to observe the Sabbath day but this does not mean we do not need to keep the Sabbath also.
The Bible also does not record that God gave the Ten Commandments to the patriarchs. Does this mean that the Ten Commandments were only meant for the Israelite nation?
God did not formally give his commandments to his people until the Israelites were led out of Egypt and entered the wilderness. Sabbath observance, being on one of God’s commandments, was thus not formally decreed before that.
The fact that we find no record that God commanded the patriarchs to observe the Sabbath does not necessarily mean that the patriarchs did not keep the Sabbath; nor does it deny God’s institution of the seventh day as the Sabbath day since the beginning.
The Ten Commandments had never been abolished; they still need to be kept by Christians today (Lk 18:18-20; 1Cor 7:19; 1Jn 5:2-3; Rev 14:12). God’s commandments were first given to the Israelites because Israel was God chosen nation, not because the commandments merely applied to the Jews.
Romans 10:4 states that Christ is the end of the law. Why then should we insist Christians today should still observe the law by keeping the Sabbath?
Here Paul is talking about the Israelites trying to establish their own righteousness by observing the law rather than submitting to God’s righteousness (v. 3). He is not saying that Christ did away with the law. Even Christ himself stated that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17-20). The passage is not teaching that Christ had done away with God’s commandments, but that a person is justified by believing in Christ, not by keeping the law.
The purpose of keeping the Sabbath is not to gain our own righteousness; instead, we are fulfilling our duty by obeying God’s commandments under the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Is it true that Jesus and the apostles never teach that Christians should observe the Sabbath. E.g. Acts 15:28-29? Should Sabbath be done away with?
It’s true that the New Testament never specifically instructs Christians to keep the Sabbath; however, it also never states that Christians need not keep the Sabbath. The Lord Jesus kept the Sabbath (Lk 4:16; 13:10; Mk 6:2). And so did the apostle Paul (Acts 13:13-14; 16:13; 17:1-2; 18:4). Luke also confirmed Sabbath-keeping by Christians (see question 12.6, point 3).
Sabbath observance was not instructed because it had long been a custom ever since the Old Testament (Acts 15:21).
Just because Sabbath observance is not included in the requirements prescribed by the apostles, this does not mean that it had been done away with. There are many other commandments which are not included (e.g. do not murder, do not steal). The believers were expected to learn the other commandments from the synagogues on every Sabbath (Acts 15:19-21).
God wanted man whom He created to keep the Sabbath, and He also included this in the Ten Commandments. When He wanted the Israelites to keep the Sabbath, they will not be able to collect Manna on Sabbath, but God gave them double portion the day before. We see how God esteemed Sabbath, and He promised those who kept the Sabbath that they will be blessed.
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